Posts Tagged ‘NCAA Tournament’

Since March Madness is officially upon us, it must be time to talk about basketball. Kate Fagan at ESPN has a nice article discussing Baylor’s Brittney Griner and the role of gender in sports. Griner is a 6’8″ player who is able to do things that most female basketball players cannot do (see some highlights here). If Griner were a male, Fagan argues, her accomplishments would be celebrated. As a woman, her accomplishments are simultaneously celebrated and questioned. Fagan writes that no matter Griner’s achievements, “the naysayers hop on message boards and social media to deliver a variety of insults, questioning her fierce on-court demeanor, her talent in comparison to male players, even her genetic makeup.”

Fagan compares Griner to Shaquille O’Neal, who was also physically dominant as a college player. She writes:

But whereas Shaq was hailed for being big, bold, different, Griner is sometimes viewed in a harsher light, with skepticism bordering on suspicion. When people called Shaq a freak of nature, it was a compliment; when directed at Griner, the term often carries a cruel edge, punctuated with the refrain of “She’s a dude!”

Such wary appraisals are not unique to Griner, of course. This is what Joe Fan does to any female athlete who doesn’t fit neatly into one of two boxes: the cool, tough-talking guy’s gal (see: Ronda Rousey, Lindsey Vonn) or the unattainable beauty (see: Maria Sharapova, Anna Kournikova).

Fagan also quotes Nicole LaVoi, a professor at the University of Minnesota, who adds:

“People can’t just say, ‘Wow, Brittney Griner is a great athlete.’ We need to have a caveat: ‘She plays like a guy, she looks like a guy, she must be a guy.’ These qualifiers marginalize what Brittney has done and serve to keep the current pecking order in place, whereby men’s sports are more valued, more culturally relevant — the norm.”

The entire article is interesting and could be used to spark a classroom discussion.

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I like that spring break coincides with the first weekend of the NCAA tournament but this also makes it unlikely that I’m going to accomplish anything outside of the exams I graded and some important things like reading, yard work, and washing my car. I guess that I don’t completely identify with Female Science Professor (in every other way, obviously, we’re the same), who spends spring breaks working in her office and wonders why graduate students don’t want to do the same.

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If you don’t pick the higher seeds when filling out your bracket then you have no brain.

If you don’t root for the lower seeds once the tournament starts then you have no heart.

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Even though I don’t typically take advantage of the flexibility offered by the academic lifestyle, I have made an exception this week for the NCAA tournament.  Watching Lehigh University’s loss to Kansas last night I heard the announcers note that Lehigh’s Zahir Carrington is a sociology major.  In itself, this fact is not particularly surprising since I imagine that sociology is one of the more common majors (along with communications and general studies) for athletes if for no other reason than its reputation as a “common sense” subject.  What makes Carrington unique, however, is that he hopes to become a sociology professor.  As noted by the announcers last night and in this Philadelphia Inquirer story, Carrington would like to play basketball in Europe after he graduates this spring.  Then, “”If basketball doesn’t work out, of course, I’m going to further advance my degree,” he said. “Get my master’s in sociology and eventually a Ph.D., and hopefully one day become a professor.””  I guess that if enough athletes major in sociology it makes sense that at least some of them will eventually become professors.

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